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Night Spies 

We are at Manchow.

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They serve Indian-spiced Chinese food here--it's my father's favorite. We invited Carl and Mel to join us, but they have yet to call. Let me explain: A lady friend and I headed to Chinatown for dinner one night. I don't know the name of the restaurant where we ended up, but it has a big Buddha in the window. A very small place, very quaint, with not very many people. We sat down and gazed across the room and there they were, the grandfathers of comedy--Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, having a quiet meal with friends. We thought, "We've got to meet them somehow." I had my mandolin in the car, so I ran and got it. When the waiter brought the check we said, "We can't leave you a superrich tip, so we'll give you a song." We played and sang the first verse of the famous Russian-Yiddish Gypsy song, "Tumbalalaika," thinking Carl and Mel would recognize it. Sure enough, as we completed the first verse, Carl began to sing the second verse with his own made-up lyrics, and then the third verse we all sang together. When we finished, everyone in the restaurant applauded. Mel turned and smiled, and Carl made this funny face and said to me, "Nice song, but that ain't no balalaika"--because I was playing the mandolin.


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